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A tree lays across Fourth Avenue in Worthington following a June 16 storm that brought heavy rain and wind to the region. (RYAN McGAUGHEY/DAILY GLOBE)
A tree lays across Fourth Avenue in Worthington following a June 16 storm that brought heavy rain and wind to the region. (RYAN McGAUGHEY/DAILY GLOBE)

Sound the alarm: WPD dispatch addresses public's concern about severe weather siren

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news Worthington, 56187

Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON — “The dispatch room is the nerve center of the police department, especially during a storm.”

Those are the words of Kevin Flynn, interim chief of the Worthington Police Department. But when severe weather hits and the sirens are sounded, most folks are inside trying to avoid the storm and may not hear the warnings.

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There’s a reason for that,” Flynn said.

“The warning sirens are for people outside, not inside,” he stated. “The sirens do rotate 360 degrees, so it blows sound in every direction, but it is meant for the people outside.

“For people inside, I recommend people use the department’s Nixle service, which sends text message alerts when there are severe warnings and weather conditions.”

According to dispatch supervisor Nancy Veen, dispatch gets flooded with calls asking whether or not the sirens have went off.

“It’s tough because when a storm hits it gets busy in here so fast,” Veen explained.

“We are not only the dispatch for Worthington, but for the entire county, so when those sirens go off, we’re dispatching fire departments to be our tornado spotters, talking with Nobles County Emergency Management Office, dispatching police officers, talking with city officials and notifying some of the 24/7 companies such as Walmart and JBS that the sirens have been sounded,” Veen said. 

“If we get a call about a tree down or a flooded area from a number of residents, we do try and respond as quickly as possible. We notify city or county workers to (for example) either try and remove the tree or put barricades up around the flooded area or street.” 

Veen addressed another common complaint the police department often hears — that dispatch should contact media outlets to alert people the sirens have went off. 

“We just simply don’t have time,” she said. “I wish there was a better answer, but at most we have three people working in dispatch to answer eight telephones. While we do try and alert the media, it’s just not our top priority.

“Most of the time the National Weather Service beats us to it, anyway.” 

Veen also said dispatch will get calls about where people should go in the event of a tornado warning. 

“Residents should have a plan before the storm hits,” she said. “We do try and help direct people, but knowing where to go and having a plan is essential.” 

As for when the sirens are sounded, Veen offered a couple of tips.

“We will try and sound the alarms longer so that more people are able to hear them, but usually if the siren is going off a long time, the more danger there is,” she stated. 

For people inside their homes or workplace during a storm, Veen advises to simply pay attention to the warning signs.

“Again, the sirens are for people outside, so as for the people inside their homes, just simply pay attention, turn on your TVs to see if there is a warning in your area or sign up for the Nixle alert system, which sends alerts to your phone,” Veen explained. 

However, there is a time when dispatch does want people to call if they don’t hear the sirens go off. 

“We test our sirens every first Wednesday of the month,” she said. “If people do not hear them, then they should absolutely notify us.” 

For more information and to sign up for the Nixle alert service, visit http://www.ci.worthington.mn.us/public-safety.

Daily Globe Reporter Erin Trester may be reached at 376-7322.

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